Category Archives: projects

The Non-Store Farm Projects

Somehow it has been a few weeks since our last blog post. Our last post was on our summer plans for the Store, so I thought it would be fitting to follow that up with a post on our summer plans and projects for the rest of the farm besides the Store.

Now, I must start this off by saying that we have a lot of things we would love to do on the farm (and we fully intend to give them our attention when the store is complete. This is a list that includes things like getting pigs and setting up a greenhouse. This is absolutely not that list.

This list is one that we hope to accomplish this year. It is a list of tasks that we feel we have no other choice but to give our time to despite the fact that we would love to be pouring everything in to the store right now. Without further ado…

1) Build a blueberry house. This year is looking great for the blueberry bushes, and we want to make sure that the birds don’t enjoy the harvest instead of us (and you!). This project involves putting some posts in the ground along with enough structure attached to those posts to allow us to staple netting up. We started this project this week, and I am hoping that it is completed by the end of the long weekend.

2) The garden. It is planting season right now, and we are very excited to add more and more of our own produce to our Weekly Produce Program. The garden is a large and constant job, and we will spend more time on it than on the rest of the things on this list, so even though it isn’t exactly a new project, I felt justified in listing it.

3) Build a new chicken house. We have been expanding our chicken operations steadily for the last couple of years, and thanks to our faithful customers , we are in need of more coop space so that we can keep expanding. We are planning it as a large hen house with space along the back to put rabbits, as that venture has experienced steady growth as well.

4) Fence in our pasture. To go with the new chicken house, we need to finish digging holes and putting up fence posts to create a pasture area that takes up a large portion of our backyard. We are talking dozens of fence posts. I am literally starting to refer to myself as the mole because of the quantity of holes that I have been (and will continue to be) digging. The goats and the chickens will co-exist in this pasture, and the foxes will exist outside of the pasture.

5) Other. I put other here because it seems like we can’t go two or three weeks without coming across another project that is way more pressing than we realized. I’m sure you all can relate!

This list, along with our farm store exterior project list, holds the goals of the next few months. I’d like to think that we can accomplish them all, and we are planning on working like packhorses to make it happen, but I will be realistic and be content to finish one project at a time.

Winter is Melting Away

The start of a spring to-do list, along with our newest task of milking the goat!

I know some people are looking at the month of February and thinking to themselves that we have a long way to go until we turn the corner to some golden days. Part of me feels that way. It really does. The other part of me looks at the last couple of months and wonders where they disappeared to. Winter is supposed to be the time on the farm where the garden goes dormant, animals stop having babies so we can work on the things we don’t have time for the rest of the year, like making serious headway on the farm store. And dare I say the winter is a time when we can go in before 9:00 at night and watch football on Sunday after church. Well… winter is just about over.

Technically, the winter still has almost two months to go, but if you are standing in my shoes (which are completely disgusting right now because I cleaned out the chicken coops today), things are about to get busy in an awful hurry as spring bears down on us like a freight train.

February Task#1: Hatching Chicks

Next week we’ll be releasing the roosters with the hens because we need to collect and incubate fertilized eggs for the first spring hatching. Once it starts, this project continues through the fall. The first eggs hatch March 1, and then we keep hatching them every two weeks until September.

February Task #2: Birthing and Milking Goats

Starting in mid-February, the goats could deliver at any time. We are already milking one of them (Pepper) because she had an early stillbirth a few days ago. While this was disappointing, it made us quite sure that the other two are pregnant, and getting to refine our milking skills for a month before the other goats give birth could prove to be very helpful. Once the other two goats deliver their bundles of joy, it will be a full-fledged nursery out there, with three goats to milk twice a day and little goat babies to enjoy 🙂

February Task #3: Maple Syrup

Around the same time as that, we will be watching the temperature closely, as the daytime temperatures could be subtly climbing into the high 30’s and low 40’s regularly, meaning it is time to tap the trees and make maple syrup. Somehow, that magical season always seems to sneak up on me. It is winter one day, then all of a sudden we are outside every day collecting sap and boiling it down every weekend.

Not to be overlooked, we have a garden to plan and seeds to order. Come March we will be starting to grow plants under the lights in the basement. The planning of our garden is particularly exciting this year as we are expanding our summer produce program.

On top of all that, we are putting in every free minute we can find (they get harder and harder to find) on the store. While we still have a lot of work left on the store, the progress we have made thus far has made us more focused on the finish line, which is becoming clearer and clearer as the weeks roll by.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that winter is melting through my fingers. I am greatly looking forward to everything I wrote about above. It is just a marvel to me how fast even the dreariest seasons go when you have so much excitement right around the corner.

Building a Store Phase 1: The Race to Winter

Hello friends, family, neighbors! And a special hello to those who have been following our blog since day 1 and have been wondering where we vanished to for the past 7 months! To be honest, we are wondering the same thing! Where did that time go?! To help us process that very question, and to update all who are interested, we will be publishing a weekly blog post about the farm projects (and ideas) which have been brewin’ over the past several months.

The Race to Winter

I think that we had a similar blog title last year (Oh, yes, we did The Hustle And Bustle While the Leaves Still Rustle LOL) and I assume that this will become a yearly tradition as New Yorkian farmers, bustling around during the 5 warm months of the year to finish projects that we can’t (or would really rather not) do when the snow comes around!

This year, the hustle has a special anticipation. As the past 2 years have progressed since the farm was born, all of our thoughts have been culminating towards a singular dream: opening a farm store. “A farm store, like a feed and tack store?” you might ask. Not to disappoint the local farmers, but… not that. Instead, we are envisioning a Mom-and-Pop store of sorts,  a small general store with a community focus.  What exactly will it contain? We have our ideas but we will be working hard to figure all of that out! Stay tuned to the blog and catch up on some of our past posts (herehere, and here).

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Before we start daydreaming about the possibilities, we have a lot of manual labor to do. With the Phase 0 already complete (demolition) we have been working on Phase 1 of building the frame into a functional store. Here are some of the projects we have been working to complete before winter rolls in.

#1. Closing off the Commercial Kitchen. As you can see below, we are closing in the one-stall garage which juts off from the back of the store. In addition to walling it off, we also raised the inside floor. This new “room” is going to be our commercial kitchen, which will start off very simple with the basic legal necessities like a 3-base sink. Having a commercial kitchen will allow us to sell prepared foods at our store like baked good, coffee, smoothies, etc!

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#2. The Porch. As with every project, there is bare-minimum we want to complete and a lofty goal to shoot for. So far we have the bare-minimum porch completed with steps leading up to the new kitchen (see below).

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The lofty goal is to purchase and install a front door and ice cream window at the front of the store. Then, next year, we will work on building that porch.

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Entrance door will be on the right with the ice cream window on the left.

#3. Some plumbing and heating. Our family had an outdoor wood-burning furnace installed 2 years ago. You wouldn’t think an outdoor furnace piping hot water under the ground would be very efficient, but this is the age of technology we live in! Right now, the furnace heats both of our houses, and next it will heat the store. To connect the store to the heat, we need to connect heating lines from our house’s basement to the store. First, Casey dug down and chiseled holes in the concrete foundations (literally, chiseled). In the process of digging, we found the well and got someone to come and look at it. We needed a new water pump, so we got that…

 

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The next step (whenever the weather decides to hold out) is to have Uncle Scott come with his backhoe and dig a trench for the water lines. Here is he digging up our yard 2 years ago. Having fun, Uncle Scott?

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#4. The Roof? We put a question mark here because this is not an absolute must-do before the winter, but it sure would be nice to knock off of our spring to-do list. (IF the store is going to open next summer. . .) We recently had some estimates made for getting the roof re-shingled but they were less than satisfying! Instead, we are going to do it ourselves, but to make things a whole lot easier we are installing a tin roof. Can you guess what color the roof is going to be???

And there we have Phase 1.0. Please pray for weather and energy to complete these tasks before heading to Phase 2! Also, pray pray pray for God’s wisdom in guiding our ideas and efforts this winter.

As of this morning, it looks like winter has already beat us here, but still, we keep the forward charge….

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We will keep you updated. 🙂 May He bless you and keep you in His strength!

 

 

 

Getting the Most Out of the Garden

One of the main enterprises of the Hust Roost will be fresh produce. Grandpa has been gardening in the backyard since the early 1960’s, and my father and I have both been picking and eating fresh veggies since we could walk. So, while we know how to successfully manage a vegetable garden, we are now faced with growing enough produce to eat and sell. Here are a few strategies for accomplishing just that:

1) Expansion

the South garden before expansion
the South garden after expansion

Between Grandpa’s garden, which Dad and Cathy have been taking over as Grandpa has downsized each year, and Dad’s garden, we already had over 2,000 square feet of space. That usually amounted to as much as Dad and Cathy could eat and give away to close relatives and friends. This summer, we have
tilled up about 2,000 more square feet. We have quite the impressive rocks from all of the stones we have picked out of the freshly tilled land.

the North garden after expansion
the North garden before expansion










2) Composting
In order to build up this new soil, we are developing a system for all of our manure and compost. Right now, that is mostly chicken manure, but our future plans will include using rabbit, goat, and pig manure, not to mention that we intend to do vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is basically using a little worm farm to quickly turn manure and compost into an optimal soil.

3) The Use of Beds

Casey next to some of the beds

This summer, in the North Garden (that is what we call my Dad’s garden. Grandpa’s is South), we have experimented with the use of beds. The idea is that you have specific areas in your garden for planting that you never have to step in and compress the soil. It is very good for the organisms that help vegetables grow. Next Spring, we will make more beds for the rest of the garden space and put mulch down for the paths in between the beds. It is very useful for organization and weeding, and it is very healthy for the plants. We do intend to have a few sections of garden without beds for potatoes, as they are easier to hill that way, and we also plan on growing a patch of pumpkins and squash out back where they can spread and not get in the way of everything else.

4) Extending the Growing Season

a “hoop house” before adding the plastic sheet

It is our hope to build a greenhouse in the next couple of years, but in the meantime, we have already built one hoophouse (basically a mini greenhouse that sits right over a bed) and will build more for the spring. This allows us to plant earlier and keep growing later. We also intend to set up an indoor growing space to begin growing plants (such as tomatoes and brocolli) from seed in the late winter and early spring.





5) Companion Planting and Crop Rotation
We have also been studying (and will continue to research) companion planting and crop rotation. There are many vegetables that you can plant practically right on top of each other, and instead of hampering one another, they actually benefit each other. For example, the Indian method of planting corn, squash, and beans together draws nitrogen into the soil for the corn, allows the beans to grow up the corn, and the squash shades out any potential weeds. With companion planting, we can get more out of each bed and have fewer weeds to pull! As for crop rotation, we can maximize the proper nutrients for each type of vegetable by planting it a year after a crop that leaves a lot of a nutrient that is critical for that specific vegetable. There are whole books written on the best rotation for an average vegetable garden!

6) Cover Crops
Finally, we intend to plant cover crops in the winter to provide a safe haven for the healthy organisms in the soil throughout the cold of winter as well as draw nutrients into the soil. In the summer, a few beds will lie farrow to build up the nutrients as well. However, these cover crops are not useless. They provide feed for livestock, and they can produce multiple cuttings.

Gardening is one aspect that we already know quite a bit about, but the more we research, the more new things we learn. We are excited to try new things to enhance our garden as we produce fresh vegetables, and we are looking forward to continually learning more as we go. There is nothing quite like getting your hands dirty.

Dabbling

I think sometimes this blog can get a little confusing. We’ve had people ask us if we’d up-and-moved to Glen Aubrey! No, no, no. We’re still here… in Rochester, if you’re still confused. We’ll be here for just about another year, an estimate of 42 and a half weeks (Casey loves his countdowns!). We have been down in Glen Aubrey to help with the “farm” on 4 occasions this summer, with one more coming up (look for a “Summer Summary” blog post in a couple of weeks!:)

One other thing before I jump into the fun stuff. There is one thing that makes me feel uncomfortable about blogging, and that is when we come off sounding like experts, or that we’re sure of our plans. Of course we feel like we are being led to start the Hust Roost, and we feel that we should shoot for our dreams and work hard, but we know that if God is not FOR it, it won’t amount to anything. It’s easy to get confident because we have a great idea in our heads, but in reality it could be a lot harder than we picture. But… whether the idea thrives or fails (and I’m sure there will be some of both!) we hope to glorify God through it all.

Anyways… time for some dabbling! Back at the “ranch” (our little apartment) we’ve been using our spare time this summer to learn and try whatever we can.

Baking
Occasionally I bake a loaf or two of bread, hoping that I’ll eventually figure out the strategies and ingredients that work best for me (aka the easiest). I found a great book the other week that goes through the basics of WHY you use different strategies, basically the science behind the “art.” When I finish skimming the book I’ll try baking a loaf and see if my learning has improved my baking… I’m going for less dense and more fluffy! Pies, bagels and doughnuts are also on the list for this summer, just to experiment and see what we enjoy baking, potentially for the future store!

Gardening
Another thing we’ve been dabbling in since May has been our own garden! Of course for Casey this is old news, but I’ve never had a vegetable garden. Some things I’ve learned have been:
1. Gardening takes patience. It seems to take forever and ever for things to start growing…

it took a month to get this far

At least until it gets really warm….

you could practically see the pole-beans growing a foot a day!

Do you see that big basil plant on the step? I finally caved and bought one from Wegmans since our other basil plants are still only 3 inches tall 🙁 See them in the background? Patience is a great virtue (and I could use more of it) but I learned that we should definitely start some seeds indoors!
2. Rain is a wonderful thing which I will never complain about! That way we don’t have to water the garden. 🙂
3. Good fertilizer is key for speed of growth… but you don’t have to waste money on store-bought chemicals! Crushed egg shells add calcium that peppers and tomatoes need, green compost and manure adds nitrogen, etc…
3. Veggies right out of the garden really do taste better than the store! Fresh peas, zucchini, asparagus, radishes… all taste good enough to eat raw with no veggie dip!

Casey enjoying one of his favorites, a ruby radish!
Behind him you can see the broccoli.

In our little garden we grew a row each of: arugula, leaf lettuce, onions, beets, radishes, broccoli, hot pepper, green bean, and peas. We also have 4 tomato plants, a zucchini plant, an acorn squash plant and some herbs… oh, and one lone carrot (that was me who planted the row of carrots, and I messed up!!)

So far we’ve harvested arugula, lettuce, radishes, onions, peppers, and peas!

a beautiful arugula salad

We were very blessed that our landlord allowed us to have this opportunity!!!




Jamming
We recently discovered the JACKPOT for blackberries! Our apartment is across the street from a field and a cemetery. All around the borders there are the hugest blackberry bushes! We’ve been out picking every other day since we discovered them, and each time we seem to get about THIS many:

probably about 2 quarts here

We couldn’t possibly eat them all so Casey suggested jam (or at least we did not want to test that possibility)! Now I wasn’t so sure about jam because I thought you needed a bunch of equipment, but Casey assured me it was easy. We found that we could just sterilize the jars in the toaster oven set at 300 degrees. Also, Casey found online that I should cover the berries in sugar and let them sit for a while. Sounded good to me!

After a few hours sitting with sugar

Later when researching I found out there is a reason you do this! The high concentration of sugar draws the juice out of the berries (osmotic pressure) and also pulls the pectin out with it. Now pectin is something that is absolutely necessary for jamming..  it’s the substance that causes the berry mush to gel up when you heat it. Most people buy pectin at the store but it’s a natural component of all fruit in the cell walls (some fruits have more than others though). I wanted to try it without store-bought pectin.
I was surprised that I had all the rest of the ingredients… lemon juice and sugar! Lemon juice is necessary to draw more pectin out of the fruit. The sugar (besides being for flavor) is to preserve the jam. No bacteria can grow when there’s a high concentration of sugar! You can also add whatever flavors you want. I did a batch (with Claire) where we added clove…  it smelled like Christmas! I did another batch where I added red wine and clove. And then the final batch… I added cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger! All have been sampled and approved, even given away. 🙂 Here are the instructions I followed if you are interested: http://highheelgourmet.com/2013/07/04/basic-jam-for-beginners/

Here are some of the results:

a decent mess
We actually made 2 and a half more jars!

A nice mess and LOTS of blackberry jam… 🙂

May Days

The last couple of weekends in May have broken some new ground for the Hust Roost!
Here you can see Tom and Casey literally breaking some ground. Whew, they spent their whole Sunday afternoon on that section!! The goal was to expand the garden on both sides, nearly doubling the amount of growing space! (If anyone is wondering, this is in Casey’s Dad’s yard in Glen Aubrey, NY).
Casey and Gramps stirring up rocks
After the unwanted grass was ripped out (and used to fill the old fire pit), we had lots of rock-picking to do. The garden is right next to a creek bed, so the soil is filled with rocks… Including some big enough to be our grave stones! (Sorryyy, no pictures). Once you remove all those, though, the soil is great.
This picture shows the new organization for the expanded garden. Each bed is about 10 x 4 feet and can hold two or three rows of veggies. Each bed will get a number so we can record what crops went where each year, and then rotate them! Also, my favorite part, the beds make it so we can easily walk through to weed, pick and plant. Not to mention… each beds is designed to fit under a “hoop house.”
 (What’s that? See below!)


These pictures show the assembly of a “hoop house.” They are made from PVC-pipes bent over a wooden frame, with a clear plastic sheet stapled over top. These are basically mini greenhouses used to extend growing seasons, making it so we can start growing earlier in the spring and stop growing later in the fall.
More veggies!!!

<—All done!!! Well, besides the plastic sheet.
And besides the rest of them we want to make…
I think now that Casey and his Dad know what they’re doing, the rest will go faster. 🙂

Mulching the blueberries with chicken manure- they love it!

The new batch of Rhode Island Red chicks was moved from the garage to the barn. Some of these will grow up to join the other laying hens, but the roosters, well… they’ll join us for the chicken barbecue in July!

The hens enjoying their new outdoor pens, courtesy of Tom and Casey.

I caught Gramps planting some broccoli as he watched all the excitement next-door. He grows his sprouts on the windowsill, then transplants them into his fancy raised-bucket-garden. Apparently he’s the broccoli expert! I am sure learning a lot from the Husts.

~Rachel

Pulverizing Peanuts!!!

Look at those deliciously pulverized peanuts!!! If that description sounds violent, it’s because it was. Have you ever learned about the ancient wine-making process, where people stomped on grapes all day  till the roads looked like rivers of blood? Well… this process is entirely different… but those peanuts still went through a lot.

First, they were ripped out of the comfort of their little pods.

Then, their bare backs were roasted at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes before being poured into… the blender. (Dun dun dunnn). Our sources told us that a food processor works best, but that a blender could work, too. Good thing my Grammy gave us this power horse! It got a little hot, but after a couple minutes the peanuts were powder… But not peanut butter.. Apparently, a little oil will help get the creaming started, so we added a couple teaspoons of canola. That did the trick! Soon, we added the other ingredients- 1-1/2 teaspoons of molasses and 1 teaspoon of salt.

And got this! It’s strangely lighter in color than normal peanut butter, which makes me wonder what exactly they do to it! (Don’t worry, we will still buy it from the store too- the price isn’t much different from the normal kind at all. BUT it is probably 5x cheaper than the “natural” variety, and tastes so much more like peanut than sugar and other flavors. 🙂
 After tasting his raspberry jam and peanut butter sandwich, Casey (I quote)
“was scared at how good it was.”

That was interesting… and easy!

Today’s project took only a few minutes of prep and a couple hours of waiting, and produced this vat of white, yummy goodness! It’s yogurt 🙂

Again, Casey looked up all the details (this is what happens when I’m doing homework all the time and he’s bored!)

Here’s how we did it:
-Heated milk (about a quart) in a saucepan till it reached 185 degrees F.
-Meanwhile, let a half cup of yogurt sit outside the fridge to get warm.
-As soon as the milk hit 185, we removed it from the stove to cool to 110 degrees.
-As soon as the milk hit 110, we mixed in the yogurt (as well as a little vanilla pudding mix- extra for flavor, and for sugar for those bacteria to eat!)
-Then we poured the concoction in this jar, screwed the lid on tight, and put the whole jar in a crockpot set to the Warm setting.
-Then we filled the rest of the crockpot with warm water to create a warm, cozy bath for the yogurt.
-We checked the crockpot water intermittently (which for Casey meant every 10 minutes!) to make sure it was staying 110-120 degrees.
-At 5 hours, we took it out, and it was thick, curdle-y Yogurt!!

To get rid of the curdles we mixed it up well, then let it sit in the fridge to thicken.

Later when we tried it, it was a little watery (this is why people add dry milk powder to it!), so we poured it through a cheesecloth, aka T-shirt. 😉

We mixed some strawberry jam/sauce into it for extra flavor and it was delicious!

I liked the consistency and flavor better than store-bought, but that could just be me. It was milder tasting (less tangy) than the store-bought, but if we let it incubate longer, it would probably have been tangier. We will definitely be experimenting with this (Casey says another batch is due this week!) since it’s so easy, and also cheap… and let’s be honest, we’re a little obsessed with frugality. 😉